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Developing Independence in Your Child

Toddlers and pre-schoolers soon get to an age when a parent finds themselves arguing with them constantly over something, which ironically, they would really like to encourage in their child.

This is the child’s sense of independence. Developing it safely is another task the parent must learn to handle effectively. The term ‘developing’ is sometimes better described as ‘reining in’ as the child tests the parent’s patience by demanding to do more and more of their daily chores and tasks themselves.

The parent finds themselves in the awkward position of trying to keep the child safe, while at the same time encouraging this streak of independence they are showing. But knowing just how long a figurative ‘leash’ to give your child is often the best way to monitor their exploration of their sense of independence.

We’ll discuss some ways you can encourage your child to explore and express their independence, yet still maintain control of your child’s behaviour and keep them safe and out of mischief.  

Ensure the Risks They Take are Safe

Developing independence is all about testing their skills and knowledge in trying things for themselves which they’ve watched others do up until now. Like any new skill, it’s bound to take a bit of practice until they’ve got it down pat.

Encourage them to keep trying while monitoring their efforts to ensure they’re not in danger of doing harm to themselves or damaging anything around them. If they become frustrated and want to quit their attempted task, try to get them interested in tackling it again once they’re in a better mood.

As they become more and more independent, it’s also a good idea to also ensure that your home is completely toddler-proof – latches on drawers cabinets and toilets, barriers at the entrances to stairs and forbidden areas.  

Make Their Tasks Age-appropriate

You can lessen the chance of frustration and failure in your children by simply ensuring that the tasks you allow them to try are appropriate for their age, cognitive ability and motor-skills development. Make these tasks fun rather than a test.

Remember that the point of the exercise is to encourage their independence, not to pick up their clothes or put away their toys. Doing the task correctly is not the goal. Encouraging the child to want to do it by themselves is the goal.

If They Can Do a Task – Let Them Do It

Once a child has mastered a task, it’s usually almost impossible to do it for them again. Your home will echo with cries of “I wanna do it myself!” on a regular basis. But your child may perform the task much more slowly than you’d like.

Get in the habit of showing some patience and allowing them to take as much time as they need to complete the task, once they’ve learned how to do it. This, again, will inspire them with a greater level of self-confidence.

Don’t Assume Their Behaviour is a Challenge to Your Authority

Expect your child to exhibit this interest in independence. Sometimes parents can misinterpret this behaviour as a challenge to their authority. Rest assured it’s not. It’s simply the child exploring the developing facets of their intellect and one of these facets will always be a sense of independence.

Don’t misinterpret this behaviour and punish or discourage them for it. Recognise it for what it is. Your child is turning into their own person. They’ll soon be putting this new-found sense of independence to work once they begin school.

If you have any other questions about child education and development in Bangkok, please make an appointment at Appletree International School and Kindergarten and come in for a consultation.